Ambonese Malay

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Ambonese Malay
Region Moluccas
Native speakers
unknown (250,000 cited 1987)[1]
1.4 million L2 speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3 abs
Glottolog ambo1250[2]

Ambonese Malay is a Malay creole that has been apparent since the 17th century. It was first brought by traders from Western Indonesia, then developed when the Dutch Empire colonized the Maluku Islands. This was the first example of the transliteration of Malay into Roman script, and used as a tool of the missionaries in Eastern Indonesia. Malay has been taught in schools and churches in Ambon, and because of this, has become a lingua franca in Ambon and its surroundings.

Christian speakers use Ambonese Malay as their mother tongue, while Muslims speak it as second language as they have their own language. Muslims in Ambon island particularly live in several areas in Municipality of Ambon, dominant in Salahutu and Leihitu Peninsula. While in the Lease (pron : LAY-AH-SAY) islands, Christian Ambonese-speaking community is dominant in part of Haruku, Saparua and Nusa Laut islands. Ambonese Malay Creole has also become lingua franca in Buru, Seram, Geser-Gorom and south-western Maluku Islands, though with different accents.

Ambonese Malay is based on Malay with a great influences from both European languages (Dutch and Portuguese) as well as the vocabularies or grammatical structures of indigenous languages. It is famous for its melodious accent. Muslims and Christian speakers tend to make different choices in vocabulary.

Examples :

  • Beta pung nama Ahmad = My name is Ahmed
  • Ose su tau Ahmad pung maitua? = Do you know Ahmed's wife?
  • Jang bakudapa deng dia dolo, dia ada gagartang deng ose = Never see him for a moment, he's angry to you.
  • Susi dong pung kaka mo pi kamari = Susi's brother will come
  • Ini beta kasi akang voor ose = This is for you.
  • Ale badiang jua, beta cumang mo tipu-tipu Tuang Ala = Shut up, I am tricking God ( for joking )
  • Beta seng tau = I don't know

Ambonese word samples

  • Beta = I
  • Ose, Ale = you (ose is based on voce in Portuguese)
  • Dia = he, she
  • Akang = (may) it
  • Katong = we (cut from kita orang)
  • Dong = they (cut from dia orang)
  • Kamong, kamorang = you (pl) (cut from kamu orang)
  • Antua = he, she (respectful form)
  • iyo = yes
  • seng = no
  • bakubae = peace
  • nanaku = pay attention to something
  • su = already (indicating something has already happened or has been done)


  1. ^ Ambonese Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ambonese Malay". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.